Sunday, April 7, 2013

Raising the brony right

I need to get my purple horsie, G yells most nights before bed. It's purple! It's my favorite! He doesn't know that it's a My Little Pony horsie. He just loves purple, so he loves this horsie.

Nonetheless, he's become a bit of a brony.

Fighting gender stereotypes is a very different experience parenting G from what it has been in regard to the girls. With them I worried about them learning to be assertive and about using their bodies physically. Girls don't have to demure or sit meekly or wear frilly dresses. We've done well with the girls, I think.

Now here's our sweet boy, younger brother to two girls whom he admires more than anyone else on the planet. And so his favorite color is purple. He will tell you he wants to grow up to be a princess and he loves wearing his sisters' princessy dress-up clothes. He has purple nail polish on his fingers and toes because they were doing their nails and he asked that they paint his, too.

None of that bothers me at all, for the record. I think those preferences are indicative of his great love for his sisters. And to round out the picture he also calls himself a superhero and likes to tell us how strong he is. He is a superhero wearing pink pull-ups, because we have leftover pink ones from his sisters who no longer need them, and he prefers the pink to his own blue. He's a very strong superhero in pink undergarments. Got a problem with that?

I'm coming to believe that there's an under-discussed (not ubiquitous, but) common love of all things sparkly and glamorous amongst the preschool boy set that is nearly equal to the accepted-as-fact same love amongst the preschool girl set. A certain seven-year-old male friend of E's spent most of his early years in a yellow tutu and purple butterfly wings. There's a boy at daycare who beelines to the dress-up corner for the golden fairy costume every morning. And why not? Little kids are hedonists and all that sparkle and frill and silk is sensuous. The boys get bigger and one day each realize that the world lumps those nice things under a "girly" label. But before they care what the world thinks, they don't care themselves, either. And there's just nothing about playing prince that's as appealing as playing princess, is there?

So here's where all the gender equality parenting is hitting a snag:

G watches his girls change their sparkly earrings every day, and every day tells us that he wants earrings in his own ears. He asks plaintively, can I get earrings? And all I have to say to him is not yet.

Now, I can't imagine agreeing to pierce the ears of a three-year-old child of any gender. There's a measure of pain the child has to understand rationally and ask to undergo, and I don't think any kid G's age can make such an assessment. And I don't think he'll still be asking when he's five but I have been thinking and thinking about pierced ears and while I would say philosophically that I love knocking down gender-based norms, I've run headfirst into this one and can't get myself to disagree with it. And that's irritating me about myself. If his future five-year-old self wants earrings, that age at which I opened the discussion for both girls, I can't imagine being able to agree to take him.

What do you think? And did you have a sparkle-loving boy?

PS: I'm pretty sure that if G pierces his ears as a teen it won't phase me. But why can little girls have pierced ears and dresses and not boys? Even though I wouldn't agree to get his ears pierced at this time, why are those norms still there and why do I care more than I thought?

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